For nearly a year Shayla has been quietly dating two men—Nick and William —both smart, attractive, and great in bed. Because they all work at the same law firm, her needs can be met at a moment’s notice.
When the guys put their heads together and discover their girlfriend has two boyfriends, they confront Shayla about her commitment issues. As temperatures rise, Shayla pleads her case, leading to an unusual compromise that satisfies them all.
(Previously published by Liquid Silver Books as A Firm Merger.)
GENRE: EROTIC ROMANCE
CONTENT: M/F/M; MENAGE/POLYAMORY; ADULT LANGUAGE
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Shayla Linehan sat on the edge of the hotel room bed, balancing a shot glass in her trembling hands. Staring into the sea of dark liquid, she finally gulped the whiskey, wincing a little as it burned her throat. She would need this liquid courage, she decided, when she confessed her secret. She’d probably need the whole bottle when all was said and done.
Shayla checked her watch. She had five minutes before they arrived.
She’d asked William Drake and Nick Scott to visit her hotel room after the conference the trio had attended, even managing to leave the grand hall before either man had a chance to intercept her.
The men didn’t like each other much, probably because they had absolutely nothing in common, but since the young associates had been dispatched yesterday to San Francisco by their bosses at Tyler, Golden & Rome, L.L.P., things had been fairly peaceful, and Shayla counted herself lucky. But she knew her luck would run out if the men spent more than a few minutes together doing anything unrelated to business. She needed to admit the truth—and fast.
She’d been seeing both men for a good part of a year, and despite working in close proximity to both, she’d managed to keep her secret. Their firm had a strict “no fraternization” policy and the risks to her career and reputation could be disastrous if her extracurricular activities ever became public knowledge.
As much as she feared the professional ramifications of what she was doing, she feared losing Nick and William even more. She depended on each man to fulfill several of her needs, but she knew neither would be able to accept her inability to commit to just one of them.
She hadn’t counted on the guilt that had begun eating away at her as the months progressed. She certainly hadn’t considered anyone’s feelings in the matter—including her own—until it was far too late.
What she had assumed to be a modern woman’s way of handling a frisky love life had quickly dissolved into a nightmare. While she’d never promised fidelity to either of the men in her life, her own faithlessness had begun gnawing at her, making her feel dirty. Some modern woman. Keeping her dating calendar straight had become a hellish ordeal, and she’d learned early on sneaking around was not the way she liked to operate. Yet, she’d continued with this farce because she’d grown fond of both men.
“No strings” had been their shared battle cry as she and Nick ended each day in the law offices wearing nothing but briefs. But over time she’d discovered the strapping stud to be more than a sensual diversion. His generosity and sensitivity had quickly endeared him to her, showing him to be more than just a pretty face.
In contrast, William was her rock. She could discuss anything with him, whether silly or complex, and he’d have a thoughtful response. They could spend hours together discussing books, movies, politics and culture. Before Shayla could fully appreciate what was happening, she realized William had become her best friend.
Now she was certain to lose both of them despite having told no lies or made any promises. But her feelings for each man dictated she put all her cards on the table.
A tap on the hotel room door startled her from her thoughts. She swallowed tightly, placing her glass on the nightstand. She stood and smoothed down her skirt as she moved to the door. Shayla pulled the door open and forced a smile she didn’t feel. “Hello, Nick.”
“Hiya, beautiful.” He breezed inside the room, loosening his tie. He stopped before the liquor cabinet. “Want a drink?” he asked, hefting the bottle she’d held moments earlier.
“I’m good,” she whispered. “Look, I—”
“I’m glad you wanted to talk, Shay. I’ve missed you. I know the bosses are putting a lot on your plate lately, but you seem … I don’t know. Distant.”
“There’s a reason for that, Nick. It’s why I asked you to my room.”
“Oh yeah?” He gulped his drink, set the glass on the table, and pulled her in his arms. “You going to tell me what’s got you looking so sad? Tell me, so I can make it all better.”
Her breath caught as she gazed into his clear blue eyes. Oh, how she wanted him to make it all better. But she knew she’d only feel worse once he heard what she had to tell him. “Nick—”
He kissed her then, and she was instantly clinging to him, struggling for calm even as his kiss alighted through her like carnal flame. His palm settled on the small of her back, ratcheting pleasure through her system. Shayla yielded to his hunger for what she was sure would be the last time. She pulled back, blood thundering in her ears, determined to set the record straight. “We can’t, Nick. I’m expecting someone else.”
His brow furrowed. “And who might that be?”
“That might be me,” William Drake said from the doorway. “Sorry to barge in unannounced, but the door was open.”
“Not what I think, Shayla? What could I be thinking exactly, anyway? That I enter the room of the woman I’ve been seeing for the last eight months, only to catch her making out with another man?”
“You’ve been seeing her eight months, man? Shit, I got you beat. We’re heading for month ten,” Nick offered with a smirk. “I already know how Shayla likes her drinks. What’ll you be having, William?”
“Scotch and soda, please. One ice cube.”
Shayla sat on the edge of the bed, stunned by each man’s casual response to discovering she’d been dating them at the same time. Nick barely batted an eyelash; William only seemed mildly perturbed.
Groaning, she settled her head inside her hands and waited for the fireworks to start. Yet after a few moments, during which time Nick handed William his drink and set hers on the table, no arguments broke out. In fact, both men seemed almost too cool. Deciding to accept whatever fate had in store for her, she glanced up, only to catch them grinning at each other.
“What the hell is going on here?” she whispered. “What’s so funny? What am I missing?”
William removed his suit jacket and pulled a chair up to the table. “Should I tell her, Nick? Or would you rather do the honors?”
Nick gulped his drink and grabbed the gin bottle for another hit. “I’m a little busy at the moment, so go for it.”
“Yeah, William, go for it,” Shayla sniped. “It looks like the two of you have some kind of fun secret. I hate to be the only one in the dark.”
“Oh, I guarantee our secret isn’t as fun as yours, Shay. In fact, Nick and I ran into each other right before the conference this morning. We got to talking and began to compare notes. That’s when we discovered that you like to have more fun than the average woman.”
Oh. My. God.
She would have laughed if she hadn’t been so completely floored. This was a joke, right? How many times did the thing you feared most really happen? Why would they have talked about her—especially after she’d made both of them promise to keep their relationship a secret? Seriously, which one of them had thought that was a good idea?
“What’s the matter, Shay?” Nick popped a maraschino cherry into his mouth and chewed. “Damn, that’s good.”
“Nothing,” she whispered. Nothing other than the fact her secret was out and she’d not had a chance to tell them on her own terms. But what did that matter now? She’d been seeing them both and had known they would discover her duplicity. She thought it almost fitting that the uncovering had been taken out of her hands. She’d been rendered powerless when at one time she believed she held all the cards.
Relief flooded her system. What she had mistaken for power had in reality weakened her. She had no business playing with these men’s feelings. She’d had her feelings trampled on enough in the past to understand the fallout. “I—I’m truly sorry,” she said. “I never meant for either of you to find out this way.”
“You should have told me, Shayla,” William said softly. His quiet reserve was somehow worse than the angry outburst she’d expected. “Is Nick the reason you didn’t want to take the next step?”
“Nah, I doubt that, my man. Shayla played the same game with me. I think she just likes the all-you-can-eat buffet.”
His words hit her like a slap. “It wasn’t a game for me.”
“And somehow I still feel played.” Nick snarled, his expression no longer so jovial. “You’ve been playing me for a fool for months. What—you don’t expect me to have an opinion about that? Am I not allowed to feel something about it? Or are you the only one who gets a say?”
“There’s no excuse for what I did.” She sighed and stood. Her legs were shaky, like they wanted to give out and send her to the floor. “I liked you both. As time passed, I knew I should make a decision, but it was too hard. I was cowardly, always coming up with an excuse to keep you both in my life.” She exhaled sharply. “Even after I knew it was wrong and both of you admitted to wanting more, I couldn’t stop myself.”
William nodded. “I appreciate your honesty, Shay. Except … none of that changes the way I feel right now. I can only speak for myself, but so much was made clear when I learned you’ve been seeing Nick this whole time.”
She ran trembling fingers over her damp eyes. “That’s why I asked you both up here today. I wanted to attempt to explain my side to you, plead my case, as weak as it is.”
Nick glared. “I doubt the speech you prepared would have made any difference, counselor.”
Numb, Shayla lifted her drink, draining the glass. “How did it happen?” she asked, reaching for the vodka. “I mean, who told who what to whom … or whatever.”
William grinned without humor as Nick took the seat across from him. “Nick and I bumped into each other in front of the hotel. We started talking business—”
“William wanted to hammer me about wheedling my way onto the Stainer account,” Nick interjected.
William rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I thought it was a dick-ish move, and I wanted you to know about it.”
Dick-ish move? That didn’t sound like William at all. How long had they talked? Shayla wondered.
“Anyway, things got a little heated. I decided to walk away, come and find you and maybe grab a quick bite before the conference. When I mentioned my plans, Nick said—”
“I told Willie here that if you were going to be eating with anyone, it would be me. Then he got all red in the face, stammering that unbeknownst—that’s the word he used—to the rest of us, you two are a couple.” Nick slammed down his palm. “Well, imagine how that struck me! Shit, I almost struck your other boyfriend here after he’d said it.”
William and Nick exchanged smirks and William picked up the story. “So, yeah, we argued a little until we both realized we’re being played—”
“No one’s being played,” she whispered.